(CMR) A group of about ten Public Bus Operators had a brief strike Wednesday morning at the Central Bus Depot over unannounced strict enforcement of the bus routes. Within hours they reached an amicable agreement with the ministry and Public Transport Unit's (PTU) officials that accepted what the drivers said was a sensible approach.
Cayman Marl Road was informed by the public bus operators that on Friday, the PTU was calling drivers into the office and issuing them citations for not sticking to a strict route which they say was not enforced for as long as they can recall. More shockingly, all drivers said that there was no notice provided either in writing or by way of a meeting to inform them that instruction had come down last week from the ministry to now ensure strict compliance.
The enforcement directly impacted those drivers running bus route #2 out of West Bay into George Town. Their licensed route is apparently taking them directly to the waterfront and then on to the bus depot. A common practice was to drop off passengers on Eastern Avenue and then go to the waterfront. The drivers complained that this strict policy placed an unnecessary burden on passengers, who would then have to pay an additional fee in order to take a second bus to Eastern Avenue and also expend additional transport time.
Several regular users contacted CMR and said that the route change impacted them today and made them late for work. Drivers were informed that they were not permitted to collect passengers from West Bay who need to go to Eastern Avenue. They noted that impacted their ability to pick up local fare and was forcing them to focus on tourists interested in going to the waterfront area. Bus drivers shared that roughly 90 percent of their passengers require them to be dropped off in the Eastern Avenue area.
An emergency meeting was called for shortly after midday, with The Hon. Kenneth Bryan joining in via a phone call as the minister was in Barbados in his capacity as Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation. Chief Officer Stran Bodden, along with the director of the PTU and other managers, were also in attendance at the meeting.
For now, a gentleman's agreement is in place until the matter can be approved in an upcoming Public Transport Board (PTB) meeting.
Speaking to CMR later in the afternoon, the minister noted that in advance of an upcoming traffic report, there were some major areas of concern, including the efficiency and safety of the public bus system. The report will be the basis on which the current PACT government will decide the way forward on improving public transportation in the Cayman Islands in order to help encourage people to use the bus system and improve road efficiency and also elevate traffic congestion.
Public bus operators also complained that they were not having the benefit of any meetings to inform them of changes.